Inside the Mind of Maul – Sam Witwer on Rebels Season 3

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What does Darth Maul actor Sam Witwer think of the Sith Lord’s return and bringing the legendary Admiral Thrawn to Star Wars Rebels? You’re about to find out.

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 premieres this Saturday at 8:30p.m. ET!

Here at SWR we can’t wait! I recently had the pleasure to talk to the actor behind the voice of Darth Maul, Sam Witwer. 

What follows is a partial transcription of our full interview with Sam Witwer. 

Riley: ‘So we were in the giant theater watching the trailer to Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels. There are so many questions!’

Sam joking: ‘I will give you all of the answers.’

Riley: ‘Talk us through your process with playing the character of Maul. You’re someone who I have enormous respect for with how much you’re into the mythology of Star Wars. I want to hear your thoughts on the evolution of the character from The Clone Wars all the way to Star Wars Rebels now.’

Sam: ‘Yes, well Dave and I continually talk about that. The thing with Darth Maul is, and any of these dark side characters, is that you’re not just playing a character, you are embodying a theology. You’re presenting the values against which the heroes are struggling. That’s the whole thing.’

Riley: ‘And what is that theology?’

Sam: ‘Fear… it’s what the dark side is about. When we first presented Darth Maul in The Clone Wars, what we were trying to do was ‘Star Wars Goes to Hell.’ Quite literally; they go into this deep cave. There’s fire, there’s flame. He is in this garbage web, and he is this spider creature. He’s babbling to himself. And he regained his composure, and finally becomes a little bit more of the Sith Lord that we remember from The Phantom Menace.’

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‘But the objectives that we had… to show what is Darth Vader underneath the mask? What kind of madness does that guy experience and deal with? And he took it down so that he can say: ‘you don’t know the power of the dark side.’ But what are his private moments like? With Darth Maul – when we found him in The Clone Wars – he did not have the strength to hold that stuff back and it had consumed him. It made garbage stick to him and form spider legs and all this awfulness was happening. So that was the most raw that I think we will ever see the character. But from there, you piece by piece try to build up the psychology of the character who has that inside.’

Riley: ‘We see such a different Maul in season two and now even season three.’

Sam: ‘And there’s quite a bit of personality to him this time. He’s about 50 to 60 years old at this point.’

Sam grins: ‘He moisturizes so he looks really good.’

‘But he’s gone through a lot and he’s even quite different than the Darth Maul that took over Mandalore. When he tells the Mandalorians what to do and he’s very controlled, he’s like a statesman. Now he’s like this kindly old man who wants nothing more than to rob you blind and burn down your house.’

Riley: ‘He’s just sharing some knowledge, just a few helpful tips.’

Sam: ‘Yeah, and here’s the other thing about Darth Maul is that we do play with the idea that on some level he understands sincerity. He understands what it means to love someone and to lose someone. And we’ve seen it happen on The Clone Wars with his brother Savage played by Clancy Brown. And I think the reason for him to find a brother, to have a brother, to have someone he is close to (interviewer’s note: Sam is referencing Maul finding Ezra), we learned in The Clone Wars, and we did it a bit subtly.’

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Riley: ‘And frankly, that’s what gave him that dimension.’

Sam: ‘That’s right. I just love that in The Clone Wars, for example, the same thing that he did to Obi-Wan where he kills Qui-Gon in front of him, happens to him. The first thing that he says when we find him in the cave, is it’s him mumbling and talking about how mercy is a lie. And the last thing we saw from him in The Clone Wars was him begging for mercy. These are all moves we were making very consciously. And so now, we have a character who’s been through all of that. Who has reflected on all of that. And so he’s unpredictable, so where did he land on that scale at this point. Having learned all that he’s learned, where is he?’

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‘You can’t tell me that someone could have pulled the wool over his eyes so completely with sincerity and not on some level have meant what he was saying. ‘Come join me, I just want to help, the galaxy is in shambles and we can help.”

Riley: ‘And that layer of characterization is something that Star Wars Rebels does so well that we’re so much looking forward to in season 3. I’ve got one parting question for you because we can talk Maul all day, but what are your thoughts, Sam – the guy who played the West End Games – the kid who has loved the Saga for so long- on Thrawn? In Star Wars Rebels, what are your thoughts on it?

Sam smiles: ‘Yeah, that’s something that’s been a secret I’ve had to keep for a while. But I’m very, very excited. Because here’s the thing. Nothing has changed. Everyone thinks that the Legends thing and the EU,  it’s the expanded universe, it’s Legends, the world is falling apart the sky is falling, what are we going to do, it’s chaos and it’s the same thing. It’s the same way it’s always been.’

‘When George (Lucas) was working on The Clone Wars with Dave (Filoni), there was never the expectation that the TV show or George’s movies were going to line up one for one with the expanded universe materials. The West End Game books, the ones written in the eighties, are largely still accurate. But there are things they get wrong all the time in terms of what Star Wars later did. So this notion that everything needs to line up… it’s just so funny to me for two reasons.’

  1. ‘For one, take Marvel: There’s no expectation for Marvel movies and the comic books to line up. For them to reflect each other, yes. But for them to line up, no.’
  2. ‘Take Star Trek: Star Trek had an expanded universe years ago. I don’t know if people remember this, but there was The Final Reflection, and all these other books that were written by John Ford, and all these role-playing game materials, and none of it is accurate anymore. It’s all gone. Gene Roddenberry liked that stuff, but he didn’t use it.’

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Sam continuing: ‘Now George and Dave did go into the comic books, did look around and say let’s grab this guy, let’s grab that guy. George looked at Asajj Ventress and goes ‘we should take that character and make her a main character.’ So when people think that there’s a big difference now that it’s Legends, it’s just a different name. It’s always the same thing, we’re still getting in, grabbing ideas. When we were doing Darth Maul we made the Sith code cannon. Suddenly guess what, we just brought it in.’

Riley: ‘And that’s the important thing, it’s so true. It’s the characters that just makes the big difference. And just having a character like Darth Maul and Admiral Thrawn showing up, that’s what makes the series so special. Sam, thanks so much for coming on.’

Sam: ‘Thank you.’

Be sure to follow Sam on Twitter.

Catch the full audio of the interview on this week’s edition of the Star Wars Report podcast!

-Riley Blanton

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